Maintaining a healthy marriage along with the demands of the job, kids, and life is a challenging task for military couples.
The Army’s Chaplain Corps is there to help, and this past weekend, couples enjoyed a three-day, all paid, child care provided, all meals included get away at a hotel in Bellevue.
Twenty couples from 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command at Joint Base Lewis-McChord attended a Strong Bonds event May 18 to Sunday to learn skills on how to maintain a healthy marriage.
“Having a strong relationship creates a strong family and having a strong family creates a strong Soldier,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Leau Vaioa, 593rd ESC command chaplain.
Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program, which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army and Air Force families. The mission of the program is to increase individual Soldier, Airmen and family member readiness through relationship education and skills training.
“Whether you’ve celebrated one anniversary or 20, as an Army couple, you can anticipate more excitement and expect more challenges than a civilian couple,” said Master Sgt. Arthur Woods, 593rd ESC master religious affairs noncommissioned officer.
The stresses that plague couples in the military are distinct from those of civilian couples. Long separations, frequent relocations and the stress of deployments can subject military marriages to extreme hardship.
“The military itself a difficult profession and families are part of everybody’s lives, they are the underpinning of what we do and the foundation of who we are, so anything that we can do to strengthen the foundation I think it’s time well spent,” said Col. Jeffrey Niemi, 593rd ESC chief of staff.
Couples with one month of marriage through 23 years of marriage attended the three-day event. The child care provided gave the couples time to enjoy time together and learn how to strengthen their marriage. Date night was one of the activities scheduled for the couples during the event.
“We have attended 32 Strong Bonds retreats with my wife and daughter during my career,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nick Yuquimpo, food service adviser, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 593rd ESC.
“This is our third with 593rd and has been, by far, one of the best ones we’ve attended. The ambience, timing and topics discussed were spot on, and the location was excellent.”
Strong Bonds is conducted in an off-base retreat format in order to maximize the training effect. The get away provides a fun, safe, and secure environment in which to address the impact of relocations, deployments and military lifestyle stressors.
Along with the comfortable stay at a top-end hotel, the location made it perfect for families to enjoy dining out, shopping and family activities, like bowling, movies, outdoor activities and much more in downtown Bellevue,” said Sgt. First Class Maria Woods, training noncommissioned officer, HHC, 593rd ESC. “It’s a great way to get away from normal routine with our children, it’s free and you can learn from other couples.”
The Strong Bonds events on JBLM are not only designed for couples, there are events for single Soldiers, Airmen as well as families.
The Chaplain’s Corps understands that there are approximately 50 percent of service members who are single. Strong Bonds has events for single service members to help them learn to examine priorities, manage mate-choosing patterns, and learn to evaluate a relationship’s potential for long-term success.
Strong Bonds is part of every Army unit and it’s a great tool for single Soldiers, families and married couples to learn skills that will help build healthy relationships — since JBLM is a joint base, the Airmen are invited to take part as well. Soldiers are encouraged to take advantage of this type of events designed especially for them and their families.
“The event reminded me and my husband why we entered into our marriage, it helped us grow in our relationship, spend time together and reconnect,” said Sgt. 1st Class Grace Walker, equal opportunity adviser, HHC, 593d ESC.